Halfway across the world, the luminous Catherine Zeta-Jones was set to star in the first Broadway revival of Sondheim’s masterpiece [“A Little Night Music”] produced by the wonderful people who produced “Cinderella” (one of the best times I have had directing a show). It was the trigger for me to think about staging it in Manila with an actress equally as luminous and brilliant as Ms. Zeta-Jones. I knew then that it was the perfect role for Dawn to return to the musical theater stage.
After sending Dawn the script and music, she immediately said she wanted to do it and was ready for the challenge. It has been almost 12 years since she last performed in a musical. She was last seen as Elsa Montes in “Larawan”. I was thrilled beyond belief that Dawn and I would get to work together on a dream musical that I would be able to cross off my bucket list.
Staging “A Little Night Music” in October 2010 also gives us the opportunity to celebrate Sondheim’s 80th birthday next year. I believe that every musical theater company, whether they perform his work or not, is indebted to Sondheim for his ground breaking contributions to musical theater. He is, in my opinion, the greatest living musical theater composer. And “A Little Night Music” is one of his finest works.
As to whether she can sing--yes, she can. Those of us old enough to have sat through The Sharon Cuneta Show and VIP in the '80s (aminin!) would know that, since Dawn's early years in showbiz included the inevitable musical guestings on these shows to promote her movies. I don't recall an instance where she embarrassed herself--though, to be clear, this was an era when TV singers routinely lip-synched to previously recorded tracks. However, singing live onstage (in the Rolando Tinio-directed Larawan, The Musical), she also acquitted herself. I saw that musical, and I remember being struck by how Dawn played her exotic character--Elsa Montes, the “Conga Queen” from New York, “ang nagdala ng Conga sa Maynila”--with so much winking gusto. No big voice, but she was clearly enjoying herself. It didn't hurt that she was also surpassingly beautiful. She does seem an ideal fit for A Little Night Music's Desiree, the actress at a crossroads who gets to sing Send in the Clowns. Let's see.
Sponsorship, showbuying and fundraising opportunities for “A Little Night Music” are now available. Call Atlantis Productions 8927078 or 8401187. “A Little Night Music” is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International.
PLUS: Glynis Johns, who played Desiree in the original Broadway run of the musical and won a Tony for the part, also immortalized The Dress--this breathtaking red number designed by costume designer Florence Klotz. Subsequent actresses, from Elizabeth Taylor in the movie version of A Little Night Music to Dame Judi Dench in the Royal National Theatre production, would wear a variation of the crimson dress. In the current revival, though, it appears (at least from pictures) to have been retired; Catherine Zeta-Jones is swathed mostly in black or white.
PLUS PLUS: Stephen Sondheim--“I’ve reached an age where I’m two generations past when I was considered avant-garde. I went right from avant-garde to being old hat in five minutes, and you start to feel superannuated. With every new generation, popular art changes. Already there’s a generation that thinks the Beatles are old-fashioned, which I find screamingly funny. The same thing is true of plays and musicals. People need things loud and fast. That’s one of the things that I like about ‘Little Night Music.’ The musical says: Slow down. Slow down and think.”